tv U.S. Senate Sen. Mc Connell on Impeachment CSPAN December 20, 2019 2:11am-2:43am EST
majority leader. mr. mcconnell: last night the house democrats finally did what they had decided to do a long time ago. they voted to impeach president trump. over the last 12 weeks, house democrats have conducted the most rushed, least thorough, and most unfair impeachment inquiry in modern history. now their slapdash process has
concluded in the first purely partisan presidential impeachment since the wake of the civil war. the opposition to impeachment was bipartisan. only one part of one faction wanted this outcome. the house's conduct risks a deeply damaging the institutions of american government. this particular house of representatives has let its partisan rage at this particular president create a toxic new precedent that will echo well into the future. that's what i want to discuss right now. the historic degree to which house democrats have failed to do their duty and what it will mean for the senate to do ours.
so let's start at the beginning. let's start with the fact that washington democrats made up their minds to impeach president trump since before he was even inaugurated. here's a reporter in april of 2016, april of 2016. donald trump isn't even the republican nominee yet but impeachment is already on the lips of pundits, newspaper editorials, constitutional scholars, and even a few members of congress. april 2016. on inauguration day 2017, the headline in "the washington post," the campaign to impeach president trump has begun. that was day one. in april 2017, three months into
the presidency, a senior house democrat said, i'm going to fight every day until he's impeached. that was three months into the administration. in december 2017, two years ago, congressman jerry nadler was openly campaigning to be the ranking member on the house judiciary committee specifically, specifically because he was an expert on impeachment. that's the nadler's campaign to be the top democrat on judiciary. this week wasn't even the first time house democrats have introduced articles of impeachment. it was actually the seventh time. they started less than six months after the president was sworn in. they tried to impeach president trump for being impossible light to the press -- being impolite
to the press, for being mean to professional athletes, for changing president obama's policy on transgender people in the military. all of these things were high crimes and misdemeanors according to democrats. this wasn't just a few people. scores, scores of democrats voted to move forward with impeachment on three of those prior occasions. so let's be clear. the house's vote yesterday was not some neutral judgment that democrats came to with great reluctance. it was the predetermined end of a partisan crusade that began before president trump was even nominated, let alone sworn in. for the very first time in
modern history, we've seen a political faction in congress promise from the moment, the moment the president election ended they would find some way to overturn it. a few months ago democrats' three-year long impeachment in search of articles found its way to the subject of ukraine. house democrats embarked on the most rushed, least thorough and most unfair impeachment inquiry in modern history. chairman schiff's inquiry was poisoned bipartisan from the outset. its procedures and parameters were unfair and unprecedented -- in unprecedented ways. democrats tried to make chairman schiff into a de facto special prosecutor notwithstanding the fact that he's a partisan member
of congress who'd already engaged in strange and biased behavior. he scrapped precedent to cut the republican minority out of the process. he denied president trump the same sorts of procedural rights that houses of both parties had provided to past presidents of both parties. president trump's counsel could not participate in chairman schiff's hearings, present evidence, or cross-examine witnesses. the house judiciary committee's crack at this was even more a historical. it was like the speaker called up chairman nadler and ordered one impeachment rush delivered, please. the committee found no facts on its own, did nothing to verify that schiff -- to verify the schiff report. their only witnesses were liberal law professors and
congressional staffers. so, mr. president, there's a reason the impeachment inquiry that led to president next come's resignation required about 14 months of hearings, 14 months in addition to a special prosecutor's investigation. with president clinton, the independent counsel's inquiry had been under way literally for years before the house judiciary committee actually dug in. mountains of evidence, mountains. mountains of testimony from firsthand fact witnesses, serious legal battles to get what was necessary. this time around house democrats skipped all of that. spent just 12 weeks, 12 weeks. more than a year of hearings for nixon, multiple years of investigation for clinton, and they've impeached president trump in 12 weeks. 12 weeks.
so let's talk about what the house actually produced in those 12 weeks. house democrats rushed and rigged inquiry yielded two articles, two of impeachment. they're fundamentally unlike any articles that any prior house of representatives have ever passed. the first article concerns the core events which house democrats claim are impeachable. the timing of aid to ukraine. but it does not even purport to allege any actual crime. instead they deploy the vague phrase abuse of power, abuse of power. to impugn the president's action in a general indeterminate way.
speaker pelosi's house just gave in to a temptation that every other house in history has managed to resist. let me say that again. speaker pelosi's house just gave in to a temptation that every other house in our history has managed to resist. they impeached a president whom they do not even allege has committed an actual crime known to our laws. they've impeached simply because they disagree with a presidential act and question the motive behind it. so let's look at history. andrew johnson impeachment involved around a clear violation of a criminal statute albeit an unconstitutional statute. nixon had obstruction of justice, a felony under our
laws. clinton had perjury, also a felony. now the constitution does not say the house can impeach only those presidents who violate a law, but history matters. history matters and precedent matters. and there were important reasons why every previous house of representatives in american history restrained itself, restrained itself from crossing this rub rubicon. the framers of our constitution very specifically discussed this issue. whether the house should be able to impeach presidents just for, quote, maladministration. just for maladministration. in other words, because the house simply thought the president had bad judgment or is doing a bad job. they talked about all this when they wrote the constitution.
the written records of our founders' debate show they specifically rejected this. they realized it would create a total dysfunction to set the bar for impeachment that low, that low. james madison himself explained that allowing impeachment on that basis would mean the president serves at the pleasure of the congress instead of the pleasure of the american people. it would make the president a creature, a creature of congress, not the head of a separate and equal branch. so there were powerful reasons, mr. president, why congress after congress for 230 years, 230 years required presidential impeachments to revolve around clear, recognizable crimes, even though that was not a strict
limitation. powerful reasons why for 230 years, no house, no house opened a pandora's box of subjective political impeachments. that 230-year tradition died last night. now, mr. president, house democrats have tried to say they had to impeach president trump on this historically thin and subjective basis because the white house challenged their request for more witnesses. and that brings us to the second article of impeachment. the house titled this one obstruction of congress. what it really does is impeach the president for asserting presidential privilege.
the concept of executive privilege is another two century-old constitutional provision. starting with george washington having invoked it. federal courts have repeatedly affirmed it is a legitimate constitutional power. house democrats requested extraordinary amounts of sensitive information from president trump's white house, exactly the kinds of things over which presidents of both parties have asserted privilege in the past. predictable -- predictably and appropriately, president trump did not simply roll over. he defended the constitutional authority of his office. no surprise there. it's not a constitutional crisis for a house to want more information than a president wants to give up. that's not a constitutional crisis. it's a routine occurrence.
separation of powers is messy by design. here's what should have happened. here's what should have happened. either the president and congress negotiate a settlement or the third branch of government, the judiciary, addresses the dispute between the other two. the nixon impeachment featured disagreements over presidential privilege, so they went to court the clinton impeachment featured disagreements over presidential privilege, so they went to the courts. this takes time. it's inconvenient. that's actually the point. due process is not meant to maximize the convenience of the prosecutor. it's meant to protect the accused.
but this time was different. remember, 14 months of hearings for richard nixon, years of investigation for bill clinton, 12 weeks for donald trump. democrats didn't have to rush this. but they chose to stick to their political timetable at the expense of pursuing more evidence through proper legal channels. nobody made chairman schiff do this. he chose to. the tuesday before last on live television, adam schiff explained to the entire country that if house democrats had let the justice system follow its normal course, they might not have gotten to impeach the president in time for the election. my goodness.
in nixon, the courts were allowed to do their work. in clinton, the courts were allowed to do their work. only these house democrats decided due process is too much work. they would rather impeach with no proof. well, mr. president, they tried to cover for their own partisan impatience by pretending that the routine occurrence of a president exerting constitutional privilege is itself, itself a second impeachable offense. the following is something that adam schiff literally said in early october. here's what he said. any action that forces us to litigate or to have to consider litigation will be considered further evidence of obstruction of justice. adam schiff.
here's what the chairman effectively said and what one of his committee members restated just this week. if the president asserts his constitutional rights, it is that much more evident he's guilty. if the president asserts his constitutional rights, it's that much more evident he's guilty. that kind of bullying is antithetical to american justice. so those are house democrats' two articles of impeachment. that's all their rushed and rigged inquiry could generate. an act that the house does not even allege is criminal and a nonsensical claim that exercising a legitimate presidential power is somehow an impeachable offense.
mr. president, this is by far the thinnest basis for any house-passed presidential impeachment in american history. the thinnest and the weakest, and nothing else even comes close. and candidly, i don't think i'm the only person around here who realizes that. even before the house voted yesterday, democrats had already started to signal uneasiness, uneasiness with its end product. before the articles even passed, the senate democratic leader went on television to demand that this body redo house democrats' homework for them. that the senate should supplement chairman schiff's sloppy work so it is more persuasive than chairman schiff
himself bothered to make it. of course, every such demand simply confirms that house democrats have rushed forward with a case that is much too weak. back in june, speaker pelosi promised the house would build an ironclad case. never mind that she was basically promising impeachment months, months before the ukraine events, but that's a separate matter. she promised an ironclad case. and in march, speaker pelosi said this. impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there is something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, i don't think we should go down that path because it divides the country, end quote.
by the speaker's own standards, the standards she set, she has failed the country. the case is not compelling, not overwhelming, and as a result not bipartisan. the failure was made clear to everyone earlier this week when senator schumer began searching for ways the senate could step out of our proper role and try to fix the house democrats' failures for them. and it was made even more clear last night when speaker pelosi suggested that house democrats may be too afraid, too afraid to even transmit their shoddy work product to the senate. mr. president, it looks like the prosecutors are getting cold feet. in front of the entire country and second-guessing whether they even want to go to trial. they said impeachment was so urgent that it could not even wait for due process, but now they are content to sit on their
hands. this is really comical. democrats' own actions concede that their allegations are unproven. the articles aren't just unproven, they're also constitutionally incoherent. incoherent. frankly, if either of these articles is blessed by the senate, we could easily see the impeachment of every future president of either party. let me say that again. if the senate blesses this historically low bar, we will invite the impeachment of every future president. the house democrats' allegations, as presented, are incompatible with our constitutional order. they are unlike anything that has ever been seen in 230 years of this republic. house democrats want to create new rules for this president because they feel uniquely enraged. they feel uniquely enraged.
but long after the partisan fever of this moment has broken, the institutional damage will remain. i've described the threat to the presidency. this also imperils the senate itself. the house has created an unfair, unfinished product that looks nothing, nothing like any impeachment inquiry in american history. and if the speaker ever gets her house in order, that mess will be dumped over here on the senate's lap. if the senate blesses this slapdash impeachment, if we say that from now on this is enough, then we invite an endless parade of impeachable trials.
future houses of either party will feel free to toss up a jump ball every time they feel angry, free to swamp the senate with trial after trial, no matter how baseless the charges. we would be giving future houses of either party unbelievable new power to paralyze the senate at their whim. more thin arguments, more incomplete evidence, more partisan impeachments. in fact, mr. president, this same house of representatives has already indicated that they themselves may not be finished impeaching. the house judiciary committee told a federal court this very week that it will continue its impeachment investigation even after voting on these articles,
and multiple democratic members have already called publicly for more. if the senate blesses this, if the nation accepts this, presidential impeachments may cease being a once in a generation be event and become a constant part, a constant part of the political background noise. that extraordinary tool of last resort may become just another part of the arms race of polarization. real statesmen would have recognized, no matter their view of this president, that trying to remove him on this thin and partisan basis could unsettle the foundations of our republic. real statesmen would have recognized, no matter how much partisan animosity might be coarsing through their veins
that cheapening the impeachment process is not the answer. historians regard this as a great irony of our era, that so many who profess such concerns for our norms and traditions themselves prove willing to trample our constitutional order to get their way. it is long past time for washington to get a little perspective. president trump is not the first president with a populous streak. not the first to make entrenched leets feel uncomfortable. he's certainly not the first president to speak bluntly, to mistrust the administrative state, or to rankel bureaucrats. he is not the first president to assert the constitutional privileges of his office rather than roll over when congress demands unlimited sensitive
information. none of these things -- none of them -- sun precedented -- is unprecedented. i'll tell you what would be unprecedented. it will be an unprecedented constitutional crisis if the senate literally hands the house of representatives a new partisan vote of no confidence. that the founders intentionally withheld destroying the independence of the presidency. it will be unprecedented if we agree that any future house that dislikes any future president can rush through an unfair inquiry, rush the legal system, and paralyze the senate with a trial. the house could do that at will under this precedent. it will be unprecedented if the senate says secondhand and third-hand testimony from
unelected civil servants is enough to overturn the people's vote. it will be an unprecedented constitutional crisis if the senate agrees to set the bar this low forever. it is clear what this moment requires. it requires the senate to fulfill our founding purpose. the framers built the senate to provide stability, to take the long view of our republic, to safeguard institutions from the momentary hysteria that sometimes consumes our politics, to keep partisan passions from literally boiling over. the senate exists for moments like this. that's why this body has the ultimate say in impeachments.
the framers knew the house would be too vulnerable to transient passions and violent factionalism. they needed a body that would consider legal questions about what has been proven and political questions about what the common good of of our nation requires. hamilton said explicitly in federalist 61 that impeachment involves not just legal questions but inherently political judgments about what outcome best serves the nation. the house can't do both. the courts can't do both. this is as grave an assignment as the constitution gives to any branch of government, and the framers knew only the senate could handle it.
well, the moment the framers feared has arrived. a political faction in the lower chamber have succumbed to partisan rage. a political faction in the house of representatives has succumbed to a partisan rage. they have fulfilled hamilton's philosophy that impeachment will, quote, connect itself with the preexisting factions, enlist all their animosities, and there will always be the greatest danger that thes decision will be regulated more than the comparative strength of parties than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.
alexander hamilton. that's what happened in the house last night. the vote did not reflect what had been proven. it only affect -- reflects how they feel about the president. the senate must put this right. we must rise to the occasion. there's only one outcome that is suited to the paucity of evidence, the failed inquiry, the slapdash case. only one outcome suited to the fact that the accusations themselves are constitutionally incoherent, constitutional incoherent. only one outcome will preserve core precedence rather than smash them into bits in a fit of partisan rage because one party still cannot accept the american
people's choice in 2016. it could not be clearer which outcome would serve the stabilizing, institution-preserving, fever-breaking role for which the united states senate was created and which outcome would betray it. the senate's duty is clear. the senate's duty is clear. when the time comes, we must fulfill it. schumer: are we in a quorum call, mr. president? i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispense w. the presiding oic